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Cenira de Moura Nunes

General Manager for the Environment at Gerdau


From compliance to the generation of environmental value

Since the beginning of my professional life, almost three decades ago, I have been involved in the environmental management of large industries. In the late 1990s, the main function of an area dedicated to the environment was simply to comply with legislation and keep companies away from fines and bans. The value associated with the theme was compliance.

Close to the 2000s, the ISO 14001 standard provided a greater deployment of practices aimed at the environment in all industry processes through surveys of aspects and impacts, dealings with non-conformities and critical analyses. The value of the environmental issue has become more shared with the organizations' employees, with a focus on avoiding impacts, going beyond simple legal compliance.

In recent years, society's view of the environment has changed and become increasingly critical. An environmental license issued on paper is not enough. It is necessary to prove that the socio-environmental impacts associated with that operation are, at least, neutralized. Investors demand the guarantee that risks related to impacts on the environment are being managed to avoid negative results in the business. Stakeholders demand more knowledge than performance companies to consume their products and services.

The evidence that climate change will directly affect the survival of humanity has raised the level of demand and response from companies. Recent episodes, such as the Covid 19 pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, have fueled discussions on how humanity should prepare to face extreme global weather events, in addition to the need to accelerate the energy transition to a more renewable and non-renewable matrix. dependent on fossil fuels. This moment tends to lead companies to a turning point: how to deliver products and services to society that aim not only at profit, but also at a positive impact on the planet?

British consultant John Elkington was responsible for defining the Triple Result concept in the early 1990s, being one of the forerunners of the view that organizations should seek economic, social and environmental balance in order to remain sustainable. With evidence of the limitation of natural resources and the need for progress in the social issue, the economic pillar becomes increasingly contained and dependent on other dimensions.

John Elkington himself, in his most recent work, argues that the value of companies will depend on the positive impacts they deliver to the planet and society. Traditional economics would then be replaced by a regenerative version. Society should compensate for the environmental and social impacts generated by traditional capitalism and unpredictable events with a global impact, such as the pandemic itself.

The base industry, historically associated with negative effects on its production process, needs, in this context, to reinvent itself to deliver the essential values for this new economy. Steel is a material present in everything around us and an essential part of the planet's trajectory of neutrality. There is no wind tower, solar park or electric car without steel. Steel is an infinitely recyclable material and the basis of a more circular economy.

The current issue is how to add sustainable value to a product that is so relevant to society. One of the biggest dilemmas in the sector is to deliver a steel with lower intensity of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when disruptive technologies in this direction are not yet scalable. In Brazil, due to the unique characteristics of our country, we managed to develop an alternative route, replacing carbon from fossil sources with renewable ones.

The cultivated wood is transformed into a bio-reducer for the production of steel. Energy reforestation forests reduce the pressure of deforestation on native forests, contributing to the proper use of degraded lands, respecting the concepts of minimum soil cultivation and preserving areas intended for the conservation of biodiversity. The steel produced by this route presents lower intensity of emissions, being differentiated for society and the environment.

It is the value of environmental sustainability assuming its role in a regenerative economy. In this context, the expected performance of environmental professionals also changes. Compliance and transparency are basic and non-negotiable, as always. Guiding business towards an economy that respects the limits of the planet and adds sustainable value to products and services is the mission.